OUR VIEW: Don't freak out over elected officials' pay raises

If there is one issues that riles people up when it comes to politicians, it’s how much money they earn.

And we don’t get it.

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Sure, we understand why people want to know what politicians get paid, but we don’t get why people freak out over pay raises.

They are drops in the bucket when it comes to overall government budgets. There are far bigger things to get upset about when it comes to how politicians spend money. How many multimillion-dollar pet projects have we seen in this province that have become over-budget boondoggles?

We mention this because last week two different discussions happened over how much New Westminster politicians get paid.

One involved the pay for city council.

Council has approved a staff recommendation to hire an external consultant to conduct a comprehensive review of council remuneration in comparison with peer municipalities to determine the appropriate remuneration for 2019, and to update the council remuneration policy. While the city normally reviews council pay every four years using a “multiple linear regression analysis” and applying a wage increase based on the Consumer Price Index, staff recommended the city hire a consultant to review council remuneration because of changes made to the Income Tax Act.

A staff report stated the federal government amended the Income Tax Act in 2017 to eliminate the current one-third tax-free municipal officer’s allowance starting on Jan. 1, 2019. In Richmond, for example, this elimination prompted the city to make pay adjustments for mayor and council. Other civic leaders are considering pay hikes to cover the tax changes.

We imagine the external report will suggest the same thing, and we urge people to not freak out if the wages of mayor and council go up. After all, it hardly seems fair for mayor and council to see a dramatic reduction in pay just because the feds made a tax change.

The second pay discussion happened when New West school trustees discussed accepting a 1.6-per-cent pay raise - which works out to an extra $30 for trustees, $32 for school board vice-chair and $35 a month for the school board chair per month.

According to school district policy, what trustees are paid is adjusted annually based on Vancouver’s consumer price index.

Trustee Mary Lalji argued that trustees shouldn’t receive a raise at this time. That’s an admirable sentiment, but considering how little money we’re talking about, it feels more like political grandstanding than good policy.

People always talk about how valuable the roles of mayor, councillor and school trustee are. If that work is so important, why do so many taxpayers argue against compensation commensurate with the work?

Like we said, there are always things politicians spend money on that are worth getting mad about. Their remuneration should be way down the list. 

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